Homocysteine is a naturally-occurring amino acid that is a breakdown product of the essential amino acid, methionine and is linked to cardio problems, cancer and DVT. Normally the homocysteine is converted back into a harmless amino, cysteine but folks with gluten sensitivity may increase its buildup. Low levels of Vitamin B, especially B12 and B6 also puts them at risk. Women with the highest homocysteine levels had 2.3 times the heart attack risk and also had low folic acid levels, which has also been linked to autism.
Doctors seem to recommend supplementing with folic acid to help homocysteine normalize and especially when recommending the Bs. But, if they don’t test you for a mutant MRHFR gene they can’t tell you which folic is good for you and which can be dangerous. “Folic acid” and “Folate” are often used interchangeably to describe Vitamin B9. But, they are not the same. Folic acid, is actually a synthetic form of Vitamin B9, which is not found in nature, nor is it naturally found in the human body. In order for folic acid to be metabolized, it must undergo metabolism via the enzymes FOLR2 and DHFR, primarily in the liver although many people don’t have enough of these enzymes to do the job, such as those with an MTHFR mutation. These individuals cannot complete the final metabolic step that converts folic acid to the active form L-methylfolate (5-MTHF)
An epidemiological study conducted in 2007 found that men and women with previous colorectal adenomas, who took 1000 mcg of folic acid daily for 6-8 years had increased risk factors for colorectal cancer (10). It is certainly plausible to consider the possible cancer risks associated with excessive folic acid. It is for this reason that certain conventional cancer treatments use folate-blocking drugs such as methotrexate.
However, natural folates found in whole foods appear to be metabolized via the intestinal mucosa. A more homogeneous choice would be L-methylfolate which is the biologically active form of vitamin B9. L-Methylfolate (5-MTHF) has emerged as a popular alternative, and has been used as a complementary medicine in several recent clinical trials. Studies show that L-Methyfolate supplementation is equally (if not more) effective than folic acid for increasing circulating folate in those with an MTHFR mutation. It is also highly effective at reducing homocysteine levels in healthy people. It is also better absorbed and interacts with fewer medications than folic acid.
Note: To find out whether MTHFR should be on your radar, you can take raw data from 23andme, or another provider like Ancestry, and upload the data to a site like Genetic Genie to determine whether you have one copy, or two copies of either MTHFR C677T, or MTHFR A1298C, the “mutant” versions of the gene.
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